Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2014

AMC audition draws overflow of local talent

By DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND, Ledger staff writer | Oct 24, 2012
Photo by: DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND/Ledger photo Joe Mickels, 19, waits in the lobby of the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center Tuesday with his guitar at his feet to audition for reality TV program “Road Show,” set to air on AMC next year. Mickels arrived at 3 p.m., an hour before auditions began after learning of the event earlier that day. Casting producer Sara Zeluff dubbed him the “early bird” as he auditioned with a song from Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Strumming guitars, harps, vocals and saxophone notes drifted through the halls of the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center Tuesday afternoon as residents waited for the chance to win a spot on the new AMC reality TV program “Road Show.”

The documentary-style series celebrating hometown talent drew 55 local acts such as musicians, aerialists, magicians, puppeteers and dancers to the open audition from 4–8 p.m. Due to the high turnout, casting producer Sara Zeluff extended auditions until close to midnight and into the morning. She said musicians and singers comprised the majority of acts.

“There was so much talent yesterday we had to extend auditions to this morning,” she said. “I had very high expectation of Fairfield from researching and from what Oprah has said,” she said, “but when I came here I really didn’t expect the talent to be this good.”

Footage from Zeluff’s visit will be used by AMC to select the town’s finalists. AMC greenlit “Road Show” for an eight-episode season set to air during the second quarter of 2013.

The show will feature Fairfield in one of its episodes and will select a winner who will win a cash prize rumored to be as much as $10,000.

The show brings elements of “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” into a series highlighting the personality of small-town life. Fairfield was Zeluff’s first stop, but she and several other casting producers will be visiting seven other small towns across the country.

Zeluff said while talent is of primary importance, personality is a close second.

“For this particular show, first and foremost people must have a talent, and must reside in or near Fairifield … because essentially Fairfield will be a character on the show,” she said. “Aside from that, what stands out really is their personality.”

She used 75-year-old “fiddlin’ granny,” Joanne Ancell as an example of an act with a lot of character.

“Boy was she feisty and she’s also very good,” said Zeluff.

Joe Mickels, 19, arrived at the audition an hour early after learning of the show earlier that day. Mickels returned to Fairfield after a short stint as a musician in California and works in manufacturing at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company.

“My buddy called me today and said, you have got to come by after work and try out for this TV show,” he said.

As Mickels held a numbered sign on stage, Zeluff took note of his personality traits, having him introduce himself as “the early bird,” who “lived on his buddy’s porch.”

Mickels proceeded to serenade an empty theatre save Zeluff and a camera with a song from Creedence Clearwater Revival. If selected for a follow-up interview, Zeluff said she’d visit Mickels on his porch to talk to him in his natural setting.

Next, a sibling duet, Jonnie and Gemma Cohen, sang a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s, “Isn’t She Lovely” in tandem, with Jonnie on the guitar and Gemma on the bass.

Edmond Raines, who plays the saxophone in the local group, The Jefferson County Green Band, left his audition a little perturbed after one of his pedals stopped working mid-song.

“There was nothing to do, but just keep going,” he said. “But I had fun, I enjoy the acoustics of the Sondheim theater.”

Zeluff will be in town for the remainder of the week, conducting follow-up interviews and getting a better sense of the town. Based on her background work, a panel of “Road Show” judges made up of Hollywood professionals will select finalists and mentor them for the final talent show, which will be filmed this winter.

Executive director of the convention center, Rustin Lippincott, said he was happy to see residents have a chance to perform on the Sondheim stage, if not a chance to be a star in front of a national audience. He said a hip-hop group, tap dancers, four-piece bands and husband-and-wife duos were among contestants.

“There aren’t many communities in the country that live how Fairfield does, with the national attention and experiences of a large city but the feel of a small town,” he said.

Zeluff said the show aims to share the personality of each town it features.

“There’s more to Fairfield than meets the eye. In a typical Midwest town where farming is a major industry, one might expect that people don’t have the time to learn a craft or develop a talent,” she said. “However that presumption was knocked right out of the water by seeing all of the talent Fairfield has to offer.”

For Mickels, he said the audition was an opportunity to play music he loves for people, but he said the cash prize might just help him move off of his buddy’s porch.

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